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Brazil's Economic Downturn Disrupts Development In Miami

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: I'm Greg Allen in Miami. Never mind love. The main reason Brazilians come to Florida is to shop. At Electric Avenue in downtown Miami, a store that specializes in photography and video equipment, manager Walter Rojter says the declining value of the Brazilian real has hurt business. How much?

WALTER ROJTER: I don't know, maybe 20 percent.

ALLEN: Rojter says the Brazilians who do come in buy less and are more likely to want to negotiate terms and prices.

ROJTER: They come here with their calculators and receipts sometimes. It may even be more expensive here than buying it down there.

ALLEN: Another destination for Brazilians is Orlando for the theme parks and outlet shopping. Claudia Menezes works with Pegasus Transportation, a company that runs bus tours for Brazilian groups in central Florida. She projects business this year will be half of what her company did last year. Brazilians are still coming to Florida on shopping trips, she says, but their spending's not what it was.

CLAUDIA MENEZES: They're still coming, but in a more, more moderate budget.

ALLEN: International buyers led by Brazilians have had a big impact on Miami's skyline, providing much of the cash for the city's boom in high-rise condominiums. They come here to live part-time and to invest, buying residential condo units they may live in or rent out at prices often cheaper than they'd pay in Rio or Sao Paulo.

Peter Zalewski tracks the South Florida real estate market with his company, Crane Spotters. He says even with the unfavorable exchange rate, wealthy Brazilians are still looking to invest, but now there's a difference.

PETER ZALEWSKI: Previously, when the Brazilian investor was feeling wealthy, they wanted to come here and effectively buy the rock star condo. Now they're being forced to sort of compromise because they still want to pull the money out and park it here.

ALLEN: That downsizing has had an impact on Miami's condo market. The problems in Brazil along with other Latin American markets have led to a slowdown. Zalewski counts some 16 condo projects in South Florida that have been put on hold or canceled. Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.
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